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SECOND MEDITATION.

OF THE AWFUL JUDGMENT: FOR AWAKENING FEAR IN ONESELF.

[§ 15. The sinner’s fear.] My life affrights me. For when carefully reviewed, its whole course shows in my sight like one great sin; or at least it is well-nigh nothing but barrenness. Or, if any fruit is seen in it, that fruit is so false, or so imperfect, or in some way or other so tainted with decay and corruption, that it must needs either fail to satisfy God, or else utterly offend Him.

So then, sinner, thy life, so far from being almost all, is altogether all steeped in sin, and therefore worthy of condemnation; or else it is unfruitful, and deserving of disdain. But why distinguish the unfruitful from the damnable? For surely, if it is unfruitful, it is damnable by that very fact. For what the Truth hath spoken is as evident as it is true: ‘Every tree that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire’ (St. Matt. iii. 10). For if I employ 37myself in constructing something useful or serviceable, surely I do not value the result of my labour at the price of the bodily sustenance which I consume while employed on the work. Who feeds a flock, pray, which is to bring in less than the value of its pasturage? And yet Thou, O God, Thou dost all too bountifully feed and foster me; and dost await me, good-for-nothing worm and foul sinner that I am. O, how less offensive is a dead dog to the human senses than a sinful soul is to God; how much more loathsome to God is this than that is to men! Ah, no; call not the sinner a man, but a reproach, a disgrace to humanity; viler than a brute, more odious than a carcase. My soul is aweary of my life; I am ashamed to live; I am afraid to die.

What, then, remains for thee to do, O sinner, but all through thy whole life to bewail thy whole life, and in such wise to do so as that all thy whole life may be a bewailing of itself?

But here again my soul is sadly bewildered, and bewilderingly sad as well; for it grieves not in proportion to its knowledge of itself, but slumbers on in such security as if it knew not in what plight it is. O barren soul, what art thou doing? O sinful soul, why dost thou slumber? The day of 38judgment is coming, the great day of the Lord is at hand; at hand, I say, and all too swift. The day of wrath that day shall be; the day of tribulation and anguish, the day of calamity and misery, the day of darkness and gloom, the day of cloud and whirlwind, the day of trumpet and the trumpet-cry. O bitter voice of the day of God! Why dost thou slumber, thou lukewarm soul? Thing neither hot nor cold, and fit only to be vomited out of the mouth, why dost thou slumber? He that awakes not, he that trembles not, at such thunders is not asleep but dead. O barren tree, where are thy fruits? Tree fit only for the axe and the fire, fit to be cut down and burnt, what are thy fruits? Why, they are only pricking thorns and bitter sins I Would to God the thorns pricked thee to repentance and so got broken; would to God those bitter fruits dropped off and perished!

Perhaps thou thinkest some sin or other a little thing. Would that thy strict Judge thought any sin a little thing! But, ah me, does not every sin by its unholiness dishonour God? What then; will the sinner dare to call a sin a little thing? When is it a little thing to dishonour God? O dry and useless tree, worthy of eternal flames, what wilt thou answer in that day when a strict account, 39down to the twinkling of an eye, shall be required of thee of all the time dealt out to thee for living in, as to how it has been spent by thee? Ay, then will be condemned whatsoever shall be found in thee of labour or of leisure, of speech or of silence, down to the slightest thought; even the very fact that thou hast lived; if that life has not been ruled and directed to the will of God. Alas, how many sins will then start into view, as from an ambush, which now thou seest not! More, assuredly, and more terrible, it may be, than those which thou now seest. How many things which thou now thinkest not at all wicked, how many which thou now believest to be good, will then stand forth unmasked, sins of the deepest, blackest die! Then without doubt thou wilt receive according as thou hast done in the body; then, when there shall be no more time of mercy; then, when no repentance shall be accepted, when no promise of amendment may be made.

Here reflect on what thou hast done, and what award thou must receive. If much good and little evil, rejoice much; if much evil and little good, grieve much. What! O good-for-nothing sinner, are not thy evil deeds enough to extort a great and bitter cry? Are they not enough to distil thy blood 40and thy marrow into tears? Wo to the strange hardness, which such heavy hammers are too light to break! O, insensible torpor, that such sharp goads are not sharp enough to waken! Alas for the deadly sleep, that thunders so terrific are too dumb to startle! O worthless sinner, all this should be enough to prolong a ceaseless grief; and surely it is enough to draw perpetual tears!

But why should I smother in silence aught of the weight or of the magnitude of the misery that threatens? Why cheat the eyes of my soul? Shall I do so, that sudden sorrow may rain all unforeseen on the sinner; or that the intolerable storm may pelt upon him unawares? Surely this is riot for his interest. But if I should put into words whatever I might contrive to conjure up in imagination, yet that could never bear any sort of comparison with the reality.

Therefore let my eyes drop tears all day and all night, and never rest. Come, sinner, come; add fresh griefs to thy load of griefs; add terror to terror; add cry to cry; for He the very God will judge thee, in despite of whom I sin in every act of disobedience, and in every waywardness; He who has returned me good for evil, whilst I have given Him evil for good; who is now most long-suffering, but 41will then be most severe; who is now most merciful, and will then be most just.

Wo is me! wo is me! Against Whom have I sinned? I have dishonoured God; provoked the Omnipotent. Sinner that I am, what have I done! Against Whom have I done it! How wickedly have I done it! Alas, alas! O wrath of the Omnipotent, fall not on me; wrath of the Omnipotent, where could I endure thee? There is no place in all of me that could bear thy weight. O anguish! Here, sins accusing; there, justice terrifying; beneath, the yawning frightful pit of hell; above, an angry Judge; within, a burning conscience; around, a flaming universe! The just will scarcely be saved; and the sinner entangled thus, whither, whither shall he fly? Tight bound, where shall I crouch and cower; how shall I show my face? To hide will be impossible, to appear will be intolerable; I shall long for the one, and it is nowhere; I shall loathe the other, and it is everywhere! What then? What then? What will happen then? Who will snatch me from the hands of God? Where shall I find counsel, where shall I find salvation? Who is He that is called the Angel of great counsel, that is called the Saviour, that I may shriek His Name? Why, here He is; 42here He is; it is Jesus, Jesus the very Judge Himself, in whose hands I am trembling!

[§ 16. The sinners hope.] Breathe again, sinner, breathe again; do not despair; trust in Him Whom thou fearest. Fly home to Him from Whom thou hast fled away; cry cravingly to Him Whom thou hast so proudly provoked. Jesus, Jesus; for the sake of this Thy Name, deal with me according to this Name. Jesus, Jesus; forget Thy proud provoker, and bend Thine eye upon the poor invoker of Thy Name, the Name so sweet, the Name so dear, the Name so full of comfort to a sinner, and so full of blessed hope. For what is Jesus but Saviour? Therefore, Jesus, for Thine own self’s sake be a Jesus to me; Thou who formedst me, that I perish not; who redeemedst me, that Thou condemn me not; who createdst me by Thy goodness, that Thy handiwork perish not by my iniquity. Recognise and own, Benignest, what is Thine; take away what is another’s. Jesus, Jesus, mercy on me, while the day of mercy lasts, that Thou damn me not in the day of judgment. For what profit shalt Thou have in my blood, if I go down into eternal corruption? ‘For the dead shall not praise Thee, O Lord, nor any of them that go down to hell’ (Ps. cxiii. 17). If Thou 43fold me in the wide, wide Bosom of Thy mercy, that Bosom will be none the less wide on my account. Therefore admit me, O most desired Jesus, admit me into the number of Thine elect; that with them I may praise Thee, and enjoy Thee, and make my boast in Thee amongst all who love Thy Name; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost reignest gloriously throughout unending ages. Amen.

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